This week, we have a COMMENTARY TRACK first -- a return commentator! Previously heard from in the "Aqua Leung" Track, writer Mark Andrew Smith joins us once again this week with artistic co-conspirator Dan Hipp for a look at the return of their cult-fave creation, "The Amazing Joy Buzzards." The gang is back a 300-page graphic novel from Image Comics that reprints, re-letters, re-frames re-designs all the previously released and hard-to-find Joy Buzzards material in a re-branded Volume 1, and is titled "Here Come The Spiders."
The Amazing Joy Buzzards are a "rock 'n roll adventure band" featuring Mexican wrestlers, tough guys, chick magnets, and a super genius. They find trouble and get into crazy adventures to a rock and roll soundtrack in a way that only comics can deliver. The original series was an indie comics hit, with its inspired graphical design and catchy pop sensibilities.
The collection, "Here Come The Spiders," arrives after a hiatus from the series for Smith and Hipp, and will be followed up later this year by Volume 2, titled "Monster Love." In this commentary, you'll see how burst weiners, the iPod, and pee-pee humor all contributed to the book.
As always, there might be SPOILERS. You've been warned.
Dan Hipp: So this is the beginning of part five in the graphic novel, but it serves as a great introduction to a lot of the villains (or ARE THEY?!). Okay, I guess they kind of are. Anyhoo, I love designing big giant logo moments, which is why Mark and I will throw in a lot of random giant introductions, like on this page; "HERE COME THE SPIDERS!" YEAH!! Fun stuff.
Something that I do, to the disappointment of everyone including small children, is do a lot of my character designs as I'm drawing the final page. I'll already have a decent idea of what they look like, but any pre-finished page designs are nothing more than chicken scratch. The downside to that, is that in some of the earlier AJB issues, including this section, the characters will start out looking one way and end up a *little* bit different. In this case, The Puppeteer (character seen here) doesn't look quite as cartoony and exaggerated as he ends up looking by the end of the volume. I still like this page though. Giant close ups are made of awesomeness (it's on the periodic table, look it up).
Mark Andrew Smith: YEAH.
DH: I think the design of this page is nice enough and does a pretty good job of introducing all the characters, but I'm not really sold on it visually. I was using a lot of black and shadow to keep from drawing too much which hey, yeah, it's moody and all, but I don't think it works as well as it could have. Still, I think this whole sequence does get across a lot of information, which was tricky.
This was the first time I ever drew Donovan the Devil Mummy. Since then I think he's become one of my favorite characters. He's a total bad ass, but hides it behind a well-tailored, posh exterior. There's going to be some fun stuff with him in the next volume.
MAS: This page is really cool because it's the first time that we see Donovan, who's one of my favorite characters. I love researching stuff; there are actual devil mummies, but none as cool as him. Like Dan, he's one of my favorite characters in the book. The design you did for the Spider's calling card is beautiful, too, Dan. This page is pretty compressed with a lot of information to get out about the characters, but it does a good job of recapping and letting you know just who they are. The villains are very interesting to me. I like how in the book everyone has their own quirks, wants, needs, and desires.
DH: STILL MORE EXPOSITION!! But I think we pulled it off well. We'll throw in some humorous bits here and there when we start to get too serious, "Strong, silent and ridiculous, I got it." Oh, Donovan, you CAD!
The best thing about drawing AJB is there are so many cool characters, it never really gets old. The second I'm starting to think about drawing something new, Mark will throw another monster into the mix. HOORAY FOR MONSTERS!
MAS: I like this page a lot for the voice over introduction where you don't know where it's coming from until later. Introducing El Chupa is a lot of fun to do, too. The bottom panels are some of my favorites, especially how Dan made them so light so you know it's stuff that's happening in the past. This stuff is all researched, too, and most of that stuff is real, except for the book.
DH: HA, I love this BBQ shot. I was so proud of myself for having Galesh over-do the weiners until they burst. Ha, ha, ha, burst weiners. Moving on. . .
I think this is where we start to get our first hint that maybe the villains aren't really villains. Well, I mean they are, but it becomes a matter of perspective. Like, how can they be villains if they listen to the heroes' music?! HOW?! It's kind of a Miyazaki thing (in my opinion), where there really is no villain, just people with different points of view. More of that to come next volume. . .
MAS: Yeah, I love that first panel, haha. It's good to show that they're having a blast and they're not really bad guys and very human. They have different ideas and different ways to go about getting what they want as characters. I remember on the iPod line that Dan threw in there -- it was just as the iPod came out, so I was like "Dan, that's really going to date the book in a year or two when no one has an iPod and there's something new out that everyone is using for their music". But I was completely proved wrong and the iPod is going stronger than ever. In a way, Dan predicted the future and the success of the iPod, being the brilliant visionary that he is. I'd like to think that the iPod did so well because of the Joy Buzzards Bump and that Dan Hipp made the iPod.
DH: I came up with this whole pee-pee gag as I was drawing the page, which pretty much proves that I'm childish and unfit for anything but changing diapers in an old-folks home. I'm not saying that's a bad job, but it's probably all I'm fit for. And bursting weiners. Moving on. . .
I was really worried about how this scene would play out. Not for the pee-pee gag, but the script had them in different stalls for the whole sequence, until a big "flush" reveal. It read great on paper, but I couldn't work it out visually, so they were changed into urinals. The whole "throne log" caption was added during the lettering. Ha, ha, he peed on him!
MAS: The record scratch is great. Yeah, I love this page just because it's the reveal after four pages of briefing and them talking at the CIA, but the entire narration is coming from the bathroom. I think doing this joke was the motivation for most of the scene and having it come across slickly. Dan added in the General turning and peeing on his leg; it was a good idea. It's a very smooth and fun sequence to open up the book with.
DH: GOVERNMENT PROPOGANDA! One of the things I loved about the script was this angle of the band not knowing they were being controlled by the government. We threw in some of these fake ads in post-production to play it up even more. By "post-production," I mean "when we finished the book and realized we had pages left over," not when we were working on the CGI shots.
This used to be my favorite picture of Dalton, but he looks far more sharp and dangerously charming in the next volume. Still, don't stare into his eyes for too long on this page. Or do, but I'm just sayin'. . .
DH: We added this page after the fact to connect the Spiders to the race sequence later. The script had it set up a bit more like a cartoon, where the Spiders show up at the race, much to dismay of our heroes, but I was an anal jerk and insisted we spell it out a bit more. This also set up the next page so we could continue the parallel scenes (but more on that later). I like that The Puppeteer and Donovan are really just a couple of nerds, who just happen to be mad geniuses. It's like they wake up in the morning and have to decide "hmm, so should I take over the world today, or play the new Wii MarioKart?" Yeah, it would be a rough decision.
Seriously, have you played it? I'm not saying it's better than N64 Kart, but you can play people on the other side of the world. THE WORLD!!
DH: So here we are, introducing the idea of Tesla. Which, by the way, Mark was way ahead of everyone else (including "The Prestige") on this, bringing Tesla in as a major plot point. HIGH FIVES, SMITH!! Anyhoo, as I was saying before, with the addition of that last page we're now able to connect both the government and The Spiders to the same place, which also helps to play up the idea of the ambiguity of the two opposing organizations a bit more. WHO'S THE BAD GUY?!! Maybe that's lame, or obvious, in which case you can go suck an egg, because I'm proud of how it came out.
MAS: Yeah, I was way on top of the Tesla thing before anyone else. I should get one of those Pope rings so that Christopher Nolan can kiss it.
DH: I submitted this as a cover for the Previews solicitation. It's pages like this that make the whole book more than worthwhile for me. This page was, I think Mark and I both agreed, sort of "meh" as a cover. Originally, the boys are introduced on the page after this in an airport. It's a great introduction and one of my favorite pages, but it was missing the KABLAMO! introduction for them that we thought they might need, so I re-lettered the former cover as a tour poster, and there you go. KABLAMO!!!
MAS: Nicely done!
AHEM, IN CONCLUSION:
DH: I think the design of these pages works pretty well in getting out a lot of information in a short bit of time, all while giving a nice little chuckle, but I'm not impressed with the illustration. That Hipp needs to go back to art school and draw more like that feller drawing "Gyakushu!" from TOKYOPOP. That boy is aces in my book!
HA, HA, HA, get it? That's me, I draw that book (TOTALLY GROAN'D!!!).
Honestly though, these pages are visually ridiculous when compared to the next volume, "Amazing Joy Buzzards: Monster Love," due out later this year. It's like this volume is "Mad Max," which is great and all, but the next volume is "Road Warrior." It will kick the mohawked, boomerang throwing, rump of this volume. That's right, I said "rump!" Deal with it, or keep suckin' on that egg!! IT'S OVER!!!
Thanks once again to Mark Andrew Smith and Dan Hipp for stopping by this week to talk about the return of their much beloved "Amazing Joy Buzzards." The 300-page black and white (and gray) graphic novel is available today in comic shops everywhere for $19.99.
As always, if you have any titles or creators you'd like to see in THE COMMENTARY TRACK, or you're a creator with a book coming out that you'd like to talk about in detail, drop us a line. We're especially looking for artists/colorists/letterers who are looking to talk about their craft, as we've had a shortage of those so far. We're busy behind the scenes lining up books for the weeks ahead, but there's always room for more!